Resilience: The Relationship Between Resilience & Stress

by Ben Richardson
19th March 2021    6 Minutes

We’ve all had crazy weeks at work.

The key question is what happens at the weekend.

Do you look back tired but satisfied (impressed even?) with what you’ve achieved.

Or do you look back and just feel exhausted and dread that you have to do it all again next week?

Put very simply that is the difference between good stress and bad stress.

Good stress leads to improved performance and outcomes.

Bad stress less to poorer performance and can have a serious impact on your health.

In this article, we look at the difference between the two, what bad stress is and ways to deal with stress to make you more resilient.

 

What Is Stress?

Stress is described as a state of physical or emotional tension, usually in reaction to an impending challenge or threat.

It is the activation of the body’s fight or flight mechanism.

In the past, this would have been in response to a physical threat. In recent times, this has mostly been in response to perceived threats or challenges.

A perceived threat can be anything from a dispute with a colleague to worrying about future uncertainties. If you brain is ‘concerned’ then it will activate your flight or flight mechanism.

However, the key issue with stress is that the body can not differentiate between physical threats and psychological threats.

Its response to both is the same.

Stress increases your heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure in preparation for either fighting or running away from the threat.

At the same time, it slows down your digestion and deactivates your immune system. Both of these processes can wait until the threat has passed.

In the short-term stress can be highly beneficial. The physical changes it brings about increase your focus and energy.

However, the issues come when a system designed to be used occasionally for short-term threats is used continuously for longer-term threats.

Different Types Of Stress

To differentiate between the two types of stress we call them:

  1. Acute stress: This is the kind that builds up quickly and doesn’t last long. In a work context, it is typically related to a specific project or task and the stress drops away as soon as the project or task is finished. This is good stress as it ‘uses’ the stress system the way it was designed to be used.
  1. Chronic stress: This is a more persistent type of stress. It is linked to a feeling of overwhelm or lack of control. Prolonged stress is often related to an ongoing issue that can be tricky to solve. In a work context, this is likely to be things like interpersonal issues with coworkers which can be long-term and very difficult to fix. Chronic stress can have serious implications for your mental health and your physical health as your stress system isn’t designed to help with these types of situations.

 

How Common Is Stress?

Stress is very common and ‘bad’ stress makes up most of it.

Different surveys get different results but most put chronic stress at over 50% of the working population.

According to a 2020 workplace stress survey, 79% of employed British adults saying they experience commonly experience work-related stress.

However, reading down only 10% of the respondents said that stress was positive. It either made them more productive or more engaged. On that basis, 69% of respondents didn’t feel that the stress they were suffering was positive.

The media isn’t exaggerating when they say there is an epidemic of stress.

How Do You Know If You Are Stressed?

It may sound like a silly question, but when you’re in the thick of things you may not readily notice.

Similarly, if you have been chronically stressed for a long time you may forget what it is like to not be stressed!

Common symptoms of stress over the short term cover a lot of ground!

They include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty in focusing
  • Unprecedented fatigue
  • Irritability or moodiness (which can lead to conflict)
  • Rapid weight gain or loss
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Headaches and other body pains
  • Increased drug and alcohol intake
  • Stiffness in the neck, jaws and other areas

However, the more concerning issue is that chronic stress is a major contributor to:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin disorders like eczema, acne, etc.
  • Depression and anxiety

The big question is how do you benefit from short-term stress while avoiding long-term stress.

 

What Is Resilience? How Is It Related To stress?

Resilience is the ability to “power through” difficult situations and come out the other side.

Many people assume that resilient people don’t feel stress. This is not the case.

A resilient person will feel stress when things don’t go their way, as others do.

However, the key difference is that they know how to manage their stress so that they can keep it under control.

So resilience is a characteristic that people show in the face of chronic stress. It allows them to manage their stress.

An example of this would be that many highly resilient people actually exercise more regularly when they are very busy at work.

They know that exercise is a powerful way to manage stress. When they get stressed they know that they need to make time for exercise to manage their stress.

Someone less resilient might skip exercising sleep poorly as a result and find that their performance was dipping and so stress increasing.

At heart, resilience is a combination of being self-aware enough to know that you are stressed and proactive enough to do something about it.

How Do Resilient People Counter Stress?

Everyone is different. You must figure out what works best for you.

There are a number of standard practices that are used to counter stress.

These include:

  • Exercising,
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Mindfulness
  • A good diet
  • Hobbies and sport
  • Time with friends and family
  • Positive thinking

See this article for more details on managing stress.

Conclusion

If stress is the pain then resilience is the antidote.

Resilience is the trait of being able to manage your response to stressful situations so that you don’t get overwhelmed but manage to come through them.

Different people will manage their stress in different ways but all resilient people will have strategies that they use to help them through difficult times.

 

Picture Credits:  Pinterest , Pexels